Friday, December 14, 2007

Birth certificate: not just a piece of paper

Around 5.3 million Filipinos have no birth certificate because they have not been registered with the local civil registrar. Half of these are children. Each year, some 48 million childbirths worldwide are not registered. That is almost seven times the population of Hong Kong.
Birth registration is a basic right under Article 7 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) which states: “The child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality …”

Why register?
Unregistered persons have no protection and are prone to abuse because they are invisible. They exist but are not officially recognized by the government. There is no proof of their name, date of birth, and family ties. They cannot travel abroad because they cannot be issued a passport. They may find difficulty enrolling in school, or availing of medical care. They may even be prone to exploitation and abuse as victims of child labor or sex trafficking.
Plan USA, a global partnership that helps the world’s poorest children, points out that non-registration also affects adult life: “The implications of birth registration also extend long into adulthood. A birth certificate is often a prerequisite to the right to vote and be elected, to work, to open a bank account and inherit, to receive welfare benefits, and to move freely within and between countries.”

Why not registered?

“I don’t know how to do it.” This is one of the reasons why parents don’t register their children. They simply don’t know what to do.

Poverty is another reason often cited. Parents would rather work to put food on the table than spend their money traveling to birth registration centers.

Another reason is distance. Registration centers are too far away and difficult to get to.

In some cases, the persons in charge of registration forget to file the document.

How to register although late?

Ideally, childbirth must be reported within 30 days to the local civil registrar where it took place. If not, it is considered late or delayed. Here are the requirements for delayed birth registration:

1. Four copies of certificate of live birth duly filled in and signed

2. Affidavit for delayed registration (already printed at the back of the certificate of live birth) signed by the father, mother or the child if the latter could already understand

3. Any two of these documents which shows the name, birthdate and birthplace of the child, and names of the parents: baptismal certificate, school records, parents' income tax return, insurance policy, medical records, barangay captain's certification, and others

4. Affidavit of two persons who have witnessed or known about the birth of the child, and who are considered "disinterested" in the results of the birth certificate registration, such as a neighborhood friend who happened to be present when the birth was taking place.If the person to be registered is an illegitimate child, and the person who wants to register the child is not the mother, an additional requirement is an affidavit on the whereabouts of the mother. For example, if the mother is working in Hong Kong as an OFW and she has a child who has not yet been registered, she could ask her sister to register her child. The sister must submit an affidavit stating that the mother is working as an OFW in Hong Kong.

If the person to be registered is 18 years old and above and is married, he/she must also submit a certificate of marriage.

More info

The National Statistics Office and Plan Philippines has an excellent website entitled “Birth Registration Project” which I highly recommend to you for more information. You can find it at http://210.4.20.92/brp/.



(Published in my column THE LAW AND YOU, The SUN Newspaper Hong Kong, January 2008 main edition).